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High-tech health

Some area hospitals are taking advantage of new technology
to expand their knowledge and improve patient care.

Some area hospitals are taking advantage of new technology
to expand their knowledge and improve patient care.

Lancaster General Hospital
is converting all of its 42 operating rooms at the downtown Lancaster facility to include an array of
digital equipment that will make it easier for doctors and nurses to do their
jobs during surgeries, said Stacey Youcis, vice president of operations for the
hospital.

“We started the process in 2004 and have been converting
more rooms each year,” she said.

The cost is not cheap, Youcis said. “It ranges from about
$90,000 to $200,000 per room, depending on how extensive the room is.”

The advantages are well worth the financial expense, she
said.

The rooms include cameras placed in the center of the main
surgical light, as well as other areas of the room. A 42-inch plasma screen
mounted on the wall provides everyone in the room with the surgeon’s view,
including nurses, anesthetists and other medical personnel, Youcis said.

Wall-mounted screens also project X-ray images or test
results physicians may need to access during a procedure, without them having
to leave the patient. Images can be sent to other rooms for consultation and to
a conference center acting as a remote learning lab.

“Safety really plays into this, too,” Youcis said. “The
fewer people you have going in and out of the room, the lower the risk of
infections.”

Lancaster General is hoping to expand the use of the
technology to its Women and Babies
Center in the future, Youcis
said. However, security is a top priority.

“The biggest limiting factor in expanding the system is
guaranteeing a secure network,” she said.

Patient confidentiality is also a concern for medical
personnel using Internet technology at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical
Center, said Russ
Scaduto, IT director of education technology for the Penn State College of
Medicine.

Physicians may use videoconferencing to discuss a particular
case, teach courses or conduct meetings, Scaduto said.

In addition to an encrypted signal, the medical center has
dedicated lines that are guaranteed to have 99.9 percent uptime, he said. It is
rare that a line would be unavailable.

The medical center uses such technology more often for its
educational mission than direct patient care, Scaduto said.

“There isn’t a lot of real need for telemedicine except in
certain circumstances,” he said. “The expense isn’t often worth it.”

The medical center’s mission includes research, education,
community outreach and patient care, he said.

One area in which telemedicine has been used at the medical
center is in treating prisoners.

“It’s very expensive to bring prisoners to the hospital,”
Scaduto said. “We’ve used videoconferencing for that purpose.”

Brad Peterson, creative specialist with PinnacleHealth
System, said physicians at PinnacleHealth don’t often use telemedicine, but he
can see the advantages.

With more than 60 locations, Pinnacle’s staff uses
videoconferencing for meetings and consultations rather than direct patient
care, he said.

“Its use has been picking up in the last four or five
years,” Peterson said. “Eventually (telemedicine) will be more commonplace,
especially in rural areas.”

PinnacleHealth’s Oncology Department uses teleconferencing
regularly in its partnership with the Fox
Chase Cancer
Center in Philadelphia.

Using teleconferencing allows for a multidisciplinary
approach, said Betsy Kopp, oncology program administrator.

Kopp schedules monthly meetings in which this group of
experts discusses diagnostic procedures, suggested procedures and possible
outcomes for specific issues. The group might also talk about specific cases.

These “cancer conferences” include medical professionals
from the many departments involved with patients undergoing cancer treatment,
she said. These might include pathology, radiology and surgical areas.

“Academic centers (like PinnacleHealth) need to see what’s
going on in the community,” Kopp said. “This combines academic knowledge with
real cases.”

As for the future in medical technology and telemedicine,
Youcis said just about anything is possible.

“The technology of robotics in surgery is really starting to
improve,” she said. “It’s way down the road, but I could see a time when
doctors could operate without even being in the room.”

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